Paula Erwin Toth, RN, MSN, FAAN
November is National Family Caregiver Month. Family caregivers are the unsung heroes of the health care team. Without their loving care, hard work, and dedication our health care delivery system would crash and burn. They are the ones continuing our plans of care in the home. They are the nurse, physician, physical therapist, nursing assistant, home health aide, counselor, and social worker all rolled into one. They are expected to grasp complex care techniques that years ago were carried out only in the hospital.
Caregiver burnout is a real problem: caregivers dedicate so much time caring for their loved ones they neglect themselves—physically, emotionally, and financially. Many caregivers become socially isolated and often do not reach out for help. There are times the loved one becomes distraught if the caregiver leaves for a time and has someone come in to help—even if it is another family member. I have no doubt many of you, like me, have seen the family caregiver succumb to illness because he or she is worn out from caring for the loved one.